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Full text of "The Prophet, Wa-bo-ki-e-sheik, the Light White Cloud "

THE PROPHET 



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THE PROPHET 

Wa-ho-kUe-sheik 

THE LIGHT WHITE CLOUD 

(A Medicine Man] 



H. B. PRICE 



NOTE 

An effort is made in these few pages to 
assemble the historic facts about White Cloud, 
the Prophet for whom Prophetstown was 
named. No pretension is made for originality 
in what is said. Beyond a sentence or two in 
two or three places to connect related thought, 
it is not comment nor discussion. The facts 
were gleaned from these sources : 

Hodge, Handbook of American Indians ; 
The George Catlin Indian Gallery ; Drake's 
Book of Indians ; Wakefield, History of 
the Black Hawk War; Stevens, The Black 
Hawk War; Black Hawk's Autobiography; 
Thwaites, The Black Hawk War. The Story 
of Col. Gratiot's escape from the Indians at 
Prophetstown was told by Hon. Elihu Wash- 
burne, and is found in Bent's History of 
Whiteside County, and in Stevens' Black 
Hawk War. 

The picture of the Prophet is from a 
photograph by Ray Hart of the painting by 
Healy. 

H. B. PRICE. 




THE PROPHET 



Wa-ho-ki-e- sheik 

THE LIGHT WHITE CLOUD 
[A Medicine Man] 

THE PROPHET 

''He ruled a village on Rock River ^ thirty- 
five miles from the mouth of that river^ 
at the site of the present village of Proph- 
etstovuriy Illinois,*^ 

His mother was a Sauk, his father a Winnebago. 
His Indian name Wa-bo-ki-e-shiek means The Light 
or White Cloud, and when given the English name he 
was White Cloud. Being a medicine man he was a 
prophet, and, as with white men, when he had a title 
he was most often given the title, The Prophet. His 
relation to the two tribes, his office as prophet, and 
his native ability, his shrewdness and power of oratory, 
all combined to give him great influence over both the 
Sauks and the Winnebagos. 

He is reputed to have been an uncompromising 
enemy of the white people, and according to their way 
of thinking, a mischief maker. 

'*To this man is ascribed the concluding proph- 
ecies that led Black Hawk to believe he could succeed 
in regaining the Sauk village at Rock Island." 

"Here (at Prophetstown) the scheme of revolt 
against the government was completed." 

^George Catlin Indian Gallery. 

However, two men who knew him and who were 
closely associated with him testify to acts of friend- 
ship to the white people. 



Major Thomas Forsyth, a half brother of John 
KInzie of Fort Dearborn fame, and the Government 
agent for the Sauks and Foxes from 1819 to 1830, says 
(page 580 in Waubun, also Red Men of Iowa, pages 
269-272), "Many a good meal has the Prophet given 
to people travelling past his village, and very many 
stray horses has he recovered from the Indians, and re- 
stored to their rightful owners, without asking any 
recompense whatever.'' 

The Gratiots relate a story of the friendly visits 
of the Prophet to Col. Gratiot while on hunting expe- 
ditions. 

(The account of Col. Gratiot is reserved for its 
chronological place in the story.) 

How The Black Hawk War Came On 

Neapope, Black Hawk's lieutenant, went to Mai- 
den, Canada, to consult the British authorities in regard 
to the right of the Sauks to retain their lands on Rock 
River. On his way back to Black Hawk, who was at 
the site of Old Fort Madison, on the west side of the 
Mississippi River, near the mouth of the Des Moines 
(Thwaites, p. 134), Neapope stopped at the Prophet's 
village, and there spent the winter of 1831-32. He gave 
glowing reports of proffered aid from the British and 
the Winnebagos, Ottawas, Chippewas and the Pota- 
watomis, in regaining the village. (Thwaites, page 
132). The Prophet is said to have performed some in- 
cantations, had several visions, and prophesied that if 
Black Hawk would move against the whites he would 
be joined by the Great Spirit and a large army which 
would enable him to overcome the whites and regain 

possession of his old village. 

—Handbook, Vol. II, page 886. 



In his Autobiography, Black Hawk says that when 
Neapope reached him, "He informed me, that the 
Prophet was anxious to see me, as he had much good 
news to tell me, and that I would hear good news in 
the Spring from our British father. 'The Prophet re- 
quested me to inform you of all the particulars. I 
would much rather, however, you should see him, and 
learn all from himself. But I will tell you that he has 
received expresses from our British father, who says 
that he is going to send us guns, ammunition, pro- 
visions, and clothing early in the spring. The ves- 
sels that bring them will come by way of Mil-wa-ke 
(Milwaukee). The Prophet has likewise received 
wampum and tobacco from the different nations on 
the lakes — Ottawas, Potawatomis, and as for the Win- 
nebagos, he has them all at his command. We are 
going to be happy once more'." 

The advice of White Cloud was, that Black Hawk 

should proceed to the Prophet's town the following 

spring and raise a crop of corn, assurances being given 

him that by autumn the several allies, armed and 

equipped by the British, would be ready to join the 

Sauk leader in a general movement against the whites 

in the valley of the Rock. 

— Thwaites, page 133. 

Black Hawk Crosses The Mississippi 

*'On the sixth of April, 1832, Black Hawk and 
Neapope, with about five hundred warriors (chiefly 
Sauks), their squaws and children, and all their pos- 
sessions, crossed the Mississippi at the Yellow Banks, 
opposite the present site of Oquaqua, Henderson 
County, and invaded the State of Illinois. For vari- 
ous reasons Black Hawk had concluded that the rep- 



resentations of Neapope and the Prophet were ex- 
aggerated. But the Prophet met him at the Yellow 
Banks, and gave him such positive assurance of ulti- 
mate success, that the misguided Sauk confidently and 
leisurely continued his journey." 

Black Hawk says in his Autobiography, "The 
Prophet then addressed my braves and warriors. He 
told them to follow us, and act like braves, and we 
had nothing to fear, but much to gain. That the 
American War chief might come, but would not, nor 
dare not, interefere with us so long as we acted peace- 
ably. That we were not yet ready to act otherwise. 
We must wait until we ascend Rock River and receive 
our reinforcements, and we will then be able to with- 
stand any army." 

Black Hawk Progresses Up Rock River 

Black Hawk proceeded up the east bank of Rock 
River as far as the Prophet's town — some four hun- 
dred fifty of his braves being well mounted, while the 
others, with the women, children, and equipage, oc- 
cupied the canoes. The intention of the invaders was, 
as stated before, to raise a crop with the Rock River 
Winnebagos at or immediately above the Prophet's 
town, and prepare for the war-path in the fall, when 
there would be a supply of provisions. 

The Indians Come To Prophetstown 

According to Wakefield, Black Hawk reached the 
Prophet's town on April 26, 1832. "On the 26th Mr. 
Gratiot saw at a distance, about two miles down Rock 
River, the army of the celebrated Black Hawk, consist- 
ing of about five hundred Sacs, well armed and mount- 
ed on fine horses, moving in a line ol battle — their 



appearance was terrible in the extreme. Their bodies 
were painted with white clay, with an occasional im- 
pression of their hands about their bodies, colored 
black. About their ankles and bodies they wore 
wreaths of straw, which always indicated a disposition 

for blood." 

—Wakefield's History of the Black Hawk War, 
Page 30. 

Black Hawk Spends a Week At 
Prophetstown 

Black Hawk tarried a week at the Prophet's town, 
holding fruitless councils with the wily and vacillat- 
ing W'innebagos. (Thwaites, Page 148). From here 
he proceeded to Sycamore Creek (Stillman's Run). 

CoL Gratiot's Mission To The Prophet 

The military forces at Fort x\rmstrong kept close 
watch on the movements of Black Hawk and his band. 
General Henry Atkinson arrived at Fort Armstrong 
on the night of April 12th and assumed command. 
Soon afterward General Atkinson went to Fort Craw- 
ford. There he requested Col. Henry Gratiot to go to 
the Prophet and try to induce him to dissuade Black 
Haw^k from his march and to return to the west side 
of the Mississippi. 

Col. Gratiot started on April 16th with one white 
man. On the 19th he arrived at the Turtle village of 
the W'innebagos. He was delayed here until the 22nd. 
Here twenty-four Winnebago chiefs and head men 
joined him. Among them were Broken Shoulder, 
Whirling Thunder, White Crow, Little Medicine Man 
and Little Priest. They rode to Dixon where canoes 
were taken and thev continued on the wav to the 



Prophet's village, arriving there on the 25th. On land- 
ing, though he carried a flag of truce, Col. Gratiot was 
surrounded by hostile Sacs, who with every demon- 
stration of violence, made him a prisoner. Black 
Hawk, himself, who had hoisted the British flag su- 
pervising the incident, and evil times had certainly 
fallen on Col. Gratiot, had not the Prophet, seeing the 
danger of his agent, rushed to his rescue, crying, 
"Good man, good man, my friend. I take him to my 
wigwam. I feed him. He be good friend to my In- 
dians." 

When the Prophet had him securely in his wig- 
wam, Col. Gratiot explained the peaceful object of his 
mission and the perfidy of the Indians if they refused 
to deal honorably with him. He further sought, with 
all the eloquence and logic he could master, to dis- 
suade the Prophet and Black Hawk from their un- 
righteous expedition. The Prophet listened attentive- 
ly, but if any impression had been made on him it 
was not noticeable in word or action, and neither 
could he be persuaded to try to influence Black Hawk 
to give up his mad enterprise. However, as a friend, 
the Prophet was determined to save Col. Gratiot's life, 
if such a thing were possible. He kept him in his 
wigwam for two or three days, watching for an op- 
portunity to free him. The ferocious Sacs clamored 
louder each hour for scalps, and no doubt would have 
succeeded in taking them had not the Prophet seduced 
them away temporarily by promises till the desired 
opportunity should arrive. Returning hastily on the 
27th he said to Col. Gratiot, "Chouteau (Col. Gratiot's 
Indian name), you have always been my friend and 
the friend of my people, and you and your party must 
not be harmed, but there is great trouble. My young 
men will never consent to give } ou up, so you must 



leave without their knowledge. Your canoes are on 
the shore ; go to^ them at the moment when I shall 
indicate and leave instantly, and go with all speed — 
like wild fire — for the young men will give you chase. 
All will depend on the strength of your arms." 

The signal was given, and scarcely had the canoes 
been launced when an alarm in the village brought the 
Sacs and the young Winnebagos to the river, where 
a wild war whoop was sounded and an exciting chase 
down Rock River was begun to capture Col. Gratiot. 
Gratiot's men pulled for their lives, first losing and 
then gaining. The maddened Sacs whooped and 
shrieked with anger at the possible miscarriage of 
their plans as they lent renewed vigor to their strokes, 
but a sense of overwhelming danger put courage and 
strength into the oars of the pursued and they finally 
distanced their pursuers, arriving safely at Fort Arm- 
strong on April 27th, unnerved and exhausted, to re- 
port that nothing could be done by moral suasion to 
prevent the advance of Black Hawk and that nothing 
but force would avail. 

(As told by Hon. E. B. Washburn, Col. Gratiot's 
son-in-law. Stevens, Pages 112-115.) 

The Army Comes To Prophetstown 

Black Hawk and his band were followed by an 
army of two parts which started from Fort Armstrong. 
Brigadier-General Samuel Whiteside led some twelve 
or thirteen hundred mounted soldiers along the trail 
east of Rock River. General Atkinson led three hun- 
dred volunteer footmen and four hundred regular in- 
fantry up the river in canoes. The infantry was di- 
rectly under command of Colonel Zachary Taylor. 
They started on the ninth day of May. When Gen- 



eral Whiteside reached the Prophet's town he found 
it deserted. He burned the village and then pushed 
on to Dixon's. 

From Prophetstown To The 
Battle Of Bad Axe 

In the account of Black Hawk's flight, commonly 
called the Black Hawk War, the Prophet is not men- 
tioned till they reach the Mississippi River, but it is 
very probable that he was near Black Hawk through- 
out the entire movement. 

From the fourteenth of May, the date of the skirm- 
ish at Sycamore Creek (Stillman's V^alley), they were 
till the first of August reaching the Mississippi, ar- 
riving at a point about two miles below the mouth of 
Bad Axe Creek. 

Throughout this two and a half months Black 
Hawk's forces and people were scattered in several 
small bands, but they spread out over a considerable 
portion of northwestern Illinois and the southwest- 
ern part of what is now Wisconsin, going as far north 
as the present site of Madison. They then moved as 
rapidly as they could go toward the Mississippi, reach- 
ing a point about two miles below the mouth of Bad 
Axe Creek, July 31. 

From The Dalles Of Wisconsin To 
Jefferson Barracks 

After the Battle of Bad Axe. which occurred on 
August 1st and 2nd, Black Hawk gathered a party of 
ten warriors, among whom was the Prophet, and with 
these and about thirty-five squaws and children, head- 
ed east for a rocky hiding-place at the Dalles of the 



Wisconsin whither some Winnebagos offered to guide 
them. 

On the twenty-seventh of August, Chaeter and 
One-eyed Decorah, two Winnebago braves desirous of 
displaying their newly inspired loyalty to the Ameri- 
cans, and for a reward of twenty horses given by Gen- 
eral Atkinson at Dixon, delivered Black Hawk, the 
Prophet and Neapope into the hands of General Street, 
the Indian Agent at Prairie du Chien, they having 
found Black Hawk and his few companions at the 
Dalles, above the site of the Delles of Wisconsin. 

From Prairie du Chien, Black Hawk, the Prophet, 
Neapope and three others were taken to Fort Arm- 
strong. There a treaty of peace was signed on the 
twenty-first of September, 1832. The three were held 
as hostages for the good behavior of the small rem- 
nant of the British band and their Winnebago allies. 

From Fort Armstrong they were taken to Jef- 
ferson Barracks, near St. Louis, where they were kept 
through the winter. * 

Journey To Washington 

One of the few things people learn about Black 
Hawk is, that, in the spring of 1832, he was taken 
to Washington and on a tour of eastern cities to be 
shown the white man's cities and their power. The 
Prophet was with Black Hawk on this tour. At the 
time of the visit Black Hawk was first presented to 
the President, then the Prophet, who made this speech, 
which, according to Catlin, is a model of brevity and 
frankness : 

"We expected to return immediately to our peo- 
ple. The war in which we have been involved was 
occasioned by our attempting to raise provisions on 



our own lands, or where we thought we had a right 
to do so. We have lost many of our people, as well 
as the whites. Our tribes and families are now ex- 
posed to the attacks of our enemies, the Sioux, and 
the Menominees. We hope, therefore, to be permitted 
to return to take care of them." 

But his plea was not granted. 

They were sent to Fortress Monroe, where they 
were held as prisoners of war until the fourteenth of 
June. 

At Norfolk, Virginia, June 5, 1833, after his re- 
lease from Fortress Monroe, the Prophet addressed a 
mass of people from the balcony of the hotel, saying: 

"Brothers, the Great Spirit sent us here, and now 
happily we are about to return to our own Mississippi 
and our own people. It affords us much happiness 
to rejoin our friends and kindred. We would shake 
hands with all our white friends assembled here. 
Should any of them go to our country, on the Mis- 
sissippi, we would take pleasure in returning their 
kindness to us. We will go home with peaceable dis- 
positions toward our white brothers, and make our 
conduct more satisfactory to them. We bid you all 
farewell, as it is the last time we shall see each other." 

— Catlin, page 32. 

Last Days 

Then followed the visit to the other cities, after 
which they were returned to Fort Armstrong, arriving 
there about the first of August. They were here form- 
ally placed under the guardianship of Keokuk. 

Black Hawk and his followers were placed on a 
small reservation set apart for them on the Des Moines 
River, in Davis County, Iowa, where Black Hawk died 
on the third of October, 1838. 



The Sauks and most of the Foxes were removed 
to Franklin County, Kansas, in 1837, where the Proph- 
et died in 1841. 

— Handbook, page 886. 

(Catlin, page 33, says the Prophet died about 1847.) 



Personal Appearance And Pictures 
Of The Prophet 

Those who saw the Prophet and were associated 
with him have left us a written description of his per- 
sonal appearance, and two portraits of him were 
painted from life by talented artists. 

"He (the Prophet) is described as being six feet 
tall, stout and athletic of figure, with a countenance in 
keeping with his militant disposition." 

— Handbook of American Indians, 
Vol. II. Page 886. 

'Tie (the Prophet) has a large, broad mouth, short 
blunt nose, large full eyes, broad mouth, thick lips, 
with a full suit of hair. He wore a white cloth head- 
dress, which rose several inches above the top of his 
head, the whole exhibiting a deliberate savageness — 
not that he would seem to delight in honorable war, 
or fight, but marking him as the priest of assassination 
or secret murder. He had in one hand a white flag. 
"*"*** He was clothed in very white dressed deer- 
skins, fringed at the seams with cuttings of the same. 
This description was written before any portrait or 
engraving was made of him. 

'Tie carried with him a huge pipe, a yard in 
length, with the stem ornamented with the neck feath- 
ers of a duck, and beads and ribands of various colors. 



To its center was attached a fan of feathers. He wears 
his hair long all over his head". 

— Drake's Book of the Indians, 
Part rv, page 163. 

While Black Hawk, the Prophet, and ten other 
warriors were detained as prisoners of war at Jeffer- 
son Barracks in the fall of 1832, Catlin visited them. 
He says: 

''We were immediately struck with admiration at 
the gigantic and symmetrical figures of most of these 
warriors, who seemed, as they reclined in native ease 
and gracefulness, with their half-naked bodies exposed 
to view, rather like statues from some master hand 
than like beings of a race whom we had heard char- 
acterized as degenerate and debased. * * * * They 
were clad in leggings and moccasins of buckskin, and 
wore blankets, which were thrown around them in the 
manner of the Roman Toga, so as to leave their right 
arm bare". 

Here Catlin painted the pictures of Black Hawk, 
the Prophet, and the other ten, which pictures are now 
in the National Museum at Washington. 

The picture of the Prophet is in conformity with 
the description given above by Drake. With his left 
hand and fore arm horizontally in front of him, he 
holds the stem of his long pipe so the ribands, feath- 
ers and fan are visible. His hair completely covers 
his head ; he wears a necklace of beads, and a garment 
of buckskin which covers his shoulders and arms. 

While Black Hawk and the Prophet were at Fort- 
ress Monroe, R. M. Sully painted the Prophet's pic- 
ture. Here he wears a full suit of hair, the necklace 
* of beads and what seems to be a robe over his should- 



ers. This picture is in the possession of the Wisconsin 
Historical Society. 

The picture by Catlin and that by Sully show fa- 
cial features and expression as much alike as one can 
expect in two pictures painted by two artists at dif- 
ferent times and places. The expression of both is 
pleasing, there being none of the "countenance of a 
militant disposition." 

The picture of the Prophet, which hangs in the 
Board of Supervisors' room in the Court House at 
Morrison, was presented to Whiteside County by the 
Honorable E. B. Washburne, October 24, 1877. The 
picture was painted by the noted artist Healy, in 
Paris, and is a composition made from the paintings 
made from life by Catlin. Mr. Washburne, a resident 
of Galena, was for a number of years the Representa- 
tive in Congress of the district of which Whiteside 
County was a part. At the time of the presentation 
of the picture he was the Minister of the United 
States to France.